Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Middle Conwy – 7th December 2014

Paddlers: Bill, Ali, Chucky, Connor 

After weeks of enjoying little more than an intimate relationship with a paint roller (moving house is extremely bad for one’s kayaking) I managed to persuade Bill to lay down his filler and sandpaper long enough to commit to a paddle. The day dawned and after a slight delay while he recalled how to strap a boat to the uprights (through the carabiner, Bill...) we hooked up with number one wing man Chucky and headed for Wales.

The recent dry weather meant river levels had been low so despite heavy overnight rain we weren't considering anything more than a bimble down the Dee. Thankfully our friend at home (all hail Ricki) was paying attention to Rainchasers and tipped us off that the Conwy was at a medium level.  The boys’ instant enthusiasm prompted a sudden need on my part to stop at Llangollen public toilets, where we found ourselves solicited by a young man seeking a group to paddle with (at least, I think it was a paddle he was after...)

This solved the problem of a shuttle so, despite the presence of rusty paddles and much apprehension at never having run the Conwy before, the die was cast. A quick check from the bridge at the get-in confirmed plenty of water and Bill’s comment that he didn't think he’d run it that high before didn't greatly improve my confidence. However there was no holding back Connor, our rather excitable new companion, and with Chucky’s immortal words “what’s the worst that can happen...?” ringing in my ears, off we set.

The river, it transpired, lived up to its classic reputation. A fantastic 3/3+ paddle in stunning surroundings with some lovely technical features. An early roll soon snapped me out of rabbit-in-the-headlights syndrome and I raised my game sufficiently to relax and thoroughly enjoy myself. Anticipating the Dee, Chucky had only brought his playboat, so just staying afloat on some of the features provided interest and challenge enough for him! And despite his predilection for lurking outside public toilets, Connor turned out to be a great team player, sharing his knowledge of the river, leading with Bill and offering moral support in my direction as required...

With the first grade 5 duly gawped at and bypassed on foot, we blasted on down to the second where the portage was rather less straight forward. Chucky’s boat attempted to launch itself from the footpath but was fortunately halted by a convenient rock pool and safely retrieved.  None of us fancied the seal launch into a boily eddy at the foot of the grade 5, so boats were duly lowered on ropes to a more inviting eddy just below. This get-in led into an interesting grade 4 rapid but what we couldn't see from the bank was a tree potentially blocking the exit on river left. On re-boating, the hazard was spotted from the river and after some debate three of us decided that hauling the boats back up to the footpath was the preferred option to running it. Having dropped down the first section of rapid however, Connor the Brave identified a channel river right which he ran successfully. 

Reunited at the get in point beyond the grade 4, the last couple of features on the river proved to be incident-filled. Our new-found buddy dropped sideways into a hole resulting in a bit of a beating, lost paddles and a swim down to the must-make get out. Paddles were recovered but sadly not so the boat, last seen merrily bobbing in a pool below the bridge on the final run into the falls....

Failing light and lack of appropriate equipment rendered any retrieval attempt impossible so a restoring cuppa in the Falls Cafe beckoned and the authorities were duly informed. Grateful thanks to the cafe staff who couldn't have been more friendly and helpful.

In summary:  Quality paddle on a fantastic river at medium level with pushy water and lovely features.  One roll, one pain of a portage, one swim, one lost boat. But here’s to the next time guys....!